Seasons in the Sea - A month-by-month guide to Central California sea life

Section contents:

Gray whale fluke: Image credit-Steven Swartz, NOAA

Marine mammals

in November and December

< Prev. month Next month >

Diver-at-work symbol (c) Kim Fulton-Bennett This page under construction.
Here are some of the topics that will be covered in this chapter. More text and images will eventually be added to this section. Thank you for your patience.

Marine mammal events in November and December:

  • The last blue whales leave the Central Coast in late October or early November, when the upwelling stops and the dense swarms of krill disappear (many having been consumed by whales). From Central California, the blue whales head southward to breeding areas in the tropical Pacific off Central America.
  • Humpback whales stick around the Central Coast longer than blue whales, but by the end of November most of them have left the area.
  • In December, gray whales begin to migrate southward along the coast, heading toward Baja California. Most of the whales that pass the Central Coast in December are pregnant females in a rush to reach the warm lagoons of Baja before they give birth. Pods of orcas (killer whales) sometimes follow the southward migrating whales, attacking baby whales that are born during the migration. The peak of the migration, including non-pregnant adult females and males will pass by in a few weeks.
  • During their southward migration, gray whales mate. This typically involves 2 males and one female. One of the males does the actual mating and the other male helps keep the female whale in position (on her side) and hold the two animals together
  • Sizeable pods of dolphins (e.g. Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Risso's Dolphins, Northern Right Whale Dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins) can occasionally be seen in Monterey Bay during November and December, especially near shore where food (e.g. schools of anchovies) is abundant.
  • Northern fur seals migrate to the Central Coast in November or December. They will stay in this area until March, when they will head back out to the open North Pacific.
  • Adult male elephant seals arrive at Ano Nuevo in early December, followed by very pregnant females late in the month. During December, the males fight over breeding territories, with only a few males dominating. Defeated males may leave breeding areas to haul out on other beaches (e.g. at Hopkins Marine Station). Just as the male seals arrive, the yearling elephant seals that have been hanging around haul-out areas since fall will leave to forage in the deep waters of the North Pacific.
  • As the yearling elephant seals leave haul-out areas in December, so do some of the white sharks that have been hunting them for the last three months. In particular, male white sharks tend to leave Ano Nuevo and head out toward middle of the North Pacific in December. Female white sharks are more likely to hang around until January or February. Unlike most parts of the California coast, which have most shark attacks in fall, Monterey County sees the majority of white-shark attacks in December in January.
    All text © Kim Fulton-Bennett                About            Contact            Disclaimer